Saturday, October 29, 2011

One of Fritz's nephews has come into residence at the old house, built in 1792, that's down the hill near the Center.  He divides his time between New Hampshire and western Massachusetts where his current lady has a farm.  He returned from one of his trips yesterday with these two framed paintings.  They're done in either acrylics or oils -- I suspect the former but they do have something of the depth of oils -- on thin board.  She had found them at a yard sale and bought them with the idea of his bringing them here.  When we walked into the Center Friday morning, I took one look and immediately recognized the subject of the painting on the left.

When we went on our Snake and Columbia River riverboat cruise a year ago, one of the great sights on the Columbia east of Portland, Oregon was Multnomah Falls.  The highest falls in the state, Multnomah cascades down to join the Columbia in two stages with a pool in between:

The artist has taken some liberties to make the two cascades line up exactly.  So far Fritz, I, and anyone who has seen them comment on a very Japanese style to the painting.  Neither work is signed, although one of them has the initials LT written in pencil on the back of the board and both have an oval ink stamp of the New York Picture Frame Co. Inc. 638 E. Harrison St. Portland, Oregon, with the date 1920 in pencil.

At first I wasn't so sure which volcanic mountain in the northwest was the subject of the second painting, but I found a shot of Mount Hood taken from almost the exact same angle that the artist used and there's no doubt: 

For some reason my digital camera read the delicate color of gold on the trees and cliffs as more of an orange.  The effect on the actual paintings is rather more subtle.
My first thought was that they would be hung in the Center, probably in one of the bunk rooms upstairs where groups stay when in residence for a class or retreat,  But I'm becoming fonder of them the more I have them around and since one wing of the house is devoted almost exclusively to Asian art, I think they'll wind up here at the house.   They aren't great art necessarily but they have a sweet, honest quality about them, they're someone's personal work of locations he or she loved, they've survived for 91years including a trip across country, and they're views of a part of the country we now visit frequently and love a great deal ourselves.


Andrew Sullivan on the GOP: "It is an entertainment company based around a religious identity politics and masquerading as a political party."


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this courageous young woman doesn't find herself the object of a fatwa and wind up dead somewhere.

 Called to prayer: Ani Zonneveld reads Quran, gay wedding vows
by Jeremy Hooper

LOS ANGELES — Like other aspiring religious reformers before her, Ani Zonneveld takes positions that make her unpopular with America's Islamic leaders.

Not only does she lead prayers — a task normally reserved for men — but she is an outspoken advocate for gay, bisexual and transgender Muslims. Later this year, she plans to officiate at the Islamic wedding of a lesbian couple, which is perfectly acceptable by her reading of the Quran.


There was a comment on a friend's Facebook page calling for voting all incumbent senators and representatives out of office in the 2012 election as a way of solving the problem of non-functional government.  I wrote this reply:

"As regards voting out all incumbents, that may be a very good "reward" for THEM, but it may not do too much for US.  Remember all those bright and shiny-faced Teabaggers and others who got swept into Congress during the last election by announcing, "Washington is broken -- I'm going down there to FIX IT!"?

"What exactly did they fix? The situation is worse than ever; most of them are probably already bought by one bank, corporation, special interest or other. Nothing got fixed and we're heading faster and faster toward disaster with a totally non-functional government. Obama has at least guaranteed the end of a massive financial drain by announcing the end of the Iraq War, for which he's being branded an inept by those who are themselves poster boys and girls for ineptitude, obstructivism and incompetence.  We somehow have to create a way to place totally new blood before the voters."

There's a weekly newspaper in New Hampshire called The Hippo that's kind of our Village Voice.  It covers politics, the arts, local events, restaurants, etc.  In the last issue there was an interview with former Republican governor of New Jersey, Christine Todd Whitman, who turned out to be a rational, intelligent commentator on the current political situation.  Asked who she would like to see as the Republican candidate in 2012, she said she couldn't and wouldn't endorse anyone but that of all the field the one she felt had the experience across the board for the job was John Huntsman but that he didn't stand a chance as a Centrist in a rabidly Right Wing climate.  She also deplored the Oaths that the Teabag groups are requiring the candidates to take in order to get the movement's seal of approval, pointing out that no president could possibly govern subjected to some of the loony requirements and codicils the Oaths impose.  This the reality of the current situation.

Add to the mix the astonishing ignorance of the Republican candidate field.  Ms Bachmann, of course, has a scrambled view of American history that places the start of the Revolution in New Hampshire (as she made this gaffe two days in a row without being corrected suggests that her staff is as dumb as she is).  And it's all downhill from there  That she gives fellow representatives weekly lectures on what's in the U.S. Constitution is particularly scary.  Herman Cain recently blew himself out of the water by declaring that there should be an amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning same-sex marriage and he would sign it immediately if the Congress sent it to his desk.  The problem, of course, is that Constitutional amendments go to the states to be voted up or down -- the president is totally out of the loop.  Candidate Cain has no concept.  Mitt Romney and Rick Perry now just yell incoherently over each others' attempts to speak.  Additionally, Mr. Perry announced today that the tired, discredited and asinine initiative to prove that the president is not a U.S. citizen "is a good issue to keep alive."  These are the candidates being offered to the public.

Now I wouldn't vote for a Republican under any circumstances, but if this is the best one of our two major political parties has to offer, we are in such trouble!


Some very plain talk from Clint Eastwood in which he absolutely nails it!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

In the wake of the horrific slaughter of so many animals in Ohio, including a large number of magnificent endangered Bengal Tigers, I wanted to feature some images of a side of animals that isn't always known.  The first picture below and the commentary that accompanies it, was featured on a friend's Facebook page and gave me the idea, particularly as the subject is herself a bereaved tiger who found consolation and renewed purpose by adopting across species lines.

A mother tiger lost her cubs due to premature labor. Shortly after, she became depressed and her health declined. She was later diagnosed with depression. Since tigers are endangered, every effort was made to secure her health. Zoologists wrapped piglets up in tiger-print cloth, and presented them to the mother tiger. She now loves these piglets and treats them like her own. And needless to mention, her health is back on track.
By: Cecy Zamudio via Mark Huffaker 

It may not come as a surprise that primates, our closest animal relatives, can develop close relationships with other animals, but these are lovely moments:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


The porn film I did without even knowing it.

One day back in the late 1970s, I got a letter on Amero Brothers, Filmmakers letterhead asking if I would be interested in painting a backdrop for their current project, a film to be titled White Tie and Tails. At one point in time I must have known the contact that put the Ameros on to me, but that info vanished from my mind decades ago.

The letter said simply that they needed a drop of an antebellum Southern plantation house painted in an old fashioned theatrical scenery style.  I was offered reimbursement of all my expenses for theatrical muslin and paint, rental of a facility in which to paint the drop, and shipping charges.  The fee offered was something like $350 or $400 -- pretty good money for that time, and the deadline was very comfortable.  A couple of different pictures of the famous house in Mississippi, seen above, were enclosed.  I accepted immediately.

I was told that the scene in the film was to be a take-off on a scene from Gone With the Wind and I imagined something like the above.  I set to work, sewing the drop to the specs provided, renting the paint frame at Harvard's Loeb Drama Center (where I had done a lot of scene painting for Harvard Summer Theater in the late 60s) and had the thing done pretty quickly.  I snapped the shot, below, just before removing the drop from the frame and shipping it off.

A couple of weeks later, I got a lovely letter from John Amero with a check for all the monies promised and the comment that he and his brother Lem were delighted with it, that it was just what they had wanted.  I was very pleased, to say the least, and kept checking to see when the movie was being released, but I was never able to find it anywhere.  And there matters lay until a week or so ago when I came across John Amero's letter in my files and realized I could Google the movie to find out about it.

Well, Google led me to articles that said the reason I had never heard of White Tie and Tails was because while I had done the work in late 1977 for the movie shoot in 1978, the movie encountered problems with its soft-core porn star, an English model and actress who had signed a contract specifying that she wouldn't do nude sex scenes.  I was intrigued; White Tie and Tails apparently was porn!  Confirmation came in the following paragraphs with the revelation that the movie by "the eccentric Amero Brothers . . . " had eventually been released in 1981, after considerable delay while plug-in scenes were shot to compensate for the demurely clothed star,  in three versions: soft core, hard core, and some kind of general release without any nudity, as Blonde Ambition (a title that would be reused much later for a radically different piece of material).  A DVD has been released and one of the promotional tag reads: "If you liked Singin' in the Rain and Deep Throat, this is the movie for you!"

There was a great deal of praise for the work of the Ameros and their production standards: "If this film was a pastry, it would be a sugary, pastel colored cupcake full of nudity and goodness. It's fluff in the best possible way with a stellar cast, great attention to visual details (costumes, sets, etc) and corny but funny jokes. On the excellent commentary track with none other than John Amero, he talks about the great love he and his brother had for the old MGM musicals and it shows."

But the best part for me was this: 
A still from Blond Ambition with the drop in place.  I'm still intrigued about the film -- the DVD contains at least two of the three final cuts that were released into the various target markets, as well as John Amero's commentary and a lot of material on Suzy Mandel, the British actress who was the star and, apparently, who caused quite an upset about nude sex scenes.  I may look for a distributor for the DVD; Amazon seems not to carry that sort of material.  So there you have it -- my one and only porno!


In her remarkable and beautifully managed late career, Betty White keeps showing up in unexpected ways:


A couple of items that have shown up in various places on the web lately:

The immense disparity between the US and the rest of the world in this ratio shows just how out of whack our system has become.  No wonder so much of the American population is out of work, out of their foreclosed homes, and out of hope.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


A new art project finished!

When the house was built, beginning in the spring of 2007, ledge in the hillside was blown out twice to allow the first floor to be set into the earth about five feet deep three quarters of the way around.   Behind the house a swale of pebbles was created going down below the level of the slab to drain any water that came off the hillside and divert it under the slab to prevent ground water infiltration into the house.   Tons of rock lay in piles everywhere.

As time went on I found many uses for the rocks, everything from building raised beds to contain our gardens to building retaining walls to hold back the soil that was beginning to wash down into the swale.  But the question of what to do with the swale remained.  For the first couple of years, while I was building my CD racks, work benches and storage shelving out of the enormous supply of scrap lumber from the house's construction, the swale served as an outdoor construction shop.  But eventually, the question of what to do to make it a "finished space" became pressing.

The first idea came from the landscape designer who put together the plan for the extensive planting around the house.  She drew a path outlined with scrap rock on the plan with swirls of rock on either side of it.  I thought it OK but not a compelling idea visually.  And it made the swale a pass-through, not an interesting, usable space.

Much better was the idea of one of our friends, a nurseryman and part-time landscape designer who looked down at the swale from the bridge out the second floor of the house and proposed a "stream" running through it made of landscape glass nuggets, bordered by scrap rock.  He proposed places where the stream widened to allow an island or two in which bulbs or other miniature shrubs could be planted.  This idea was much more to my liking, particularly after I remembered a visit to the Japanese Gardens in the hills overlooking Portland, Oregon where a beautiful and extensive Zen garden is a major feature.  So I began to design in my head a Zen Garden based on the Japanese Inland Sea with its shrines, monumental statues and Torii Gates sitting on little islands or rising straight out of the water.  It would be a place to sit in the shade of the house's deep overhangs in the heat of the summer in comfortable Adirondack chairs with a book, or having a drink with friends, or just to contemplate something beautiful.

I began work on it in late summer and finished it a couple of days ago.  Here are some pictures, beginning with a shot of the entire installation and then focusing in on details.

View from west to east where a "mountain lake" pours its water into the larger, island-filled seascape.

Succulents and mosses make up the plantings.  Here, a garden on the shore in the background and the famous "married rocks" that can be seen off the Japanese coast.

A shrine, a Buddhist stupa, on a small island that will eventually have a miniature bridge that I constructed today connecting it to the shore.

An island with a high peak, connected to the shore by an isthmus, with a cascade flowing down to the sea.

A "monumental" Buddha on a rock pedestal set in a garden.

A small park thrusting into the water.

View of the shrine island and another island as seen from the bridge.

Picture of me beginning the plantings, taken by Fritz from the bridge.

With great and sincere thanks to our friend Martin Grealish who made the original suggestion of a stream with islands running through the swale, who procured the plants for the islands for me, and whose enthusiasm and support has meant so much.

Monday, October 03, 2011

I think three weeks is the longest hiatus this blog has had other than one vacation when I was without any connection to the internet at all.  After returning from our Alaska/Salem, Oregon/Las Vegas trip, I plunged directly into the final preparations and production week for the most recent premiere our opera company has given.  

Rocket's Red Blare is a political satire in the guise of a children's story with elements of  The Emperor's New Clothes.  The libretto was written in the 1970s during the Nixon Administration (LOTS to skewer there) and totally overhauled with a brand new score in 2008.  The final dress rehearsal was last Friday with the premiere on Saturday and last performance Sunday afternoon. 

The production team was the same superb group who worked with us last May on the opera for which Fritz and I wrote the libretto and everything went smooth as silk.  Still, the constant commuting to Cambridge, MA was time consuming and I hadn't the time to keep things up here.


I love this story from the New York Times: 
October 3, 2011, 2:45 pm

Miracle of Miracles: ‘Sunrise, Sunset’ Gets a Gay Makeover

Rev. Joshua Ellis officiates at the wedding of Daniel Sherman, left, and Richard Skipper on Oct. 1. 

Rev. Joshua Ellis officiates at the Oct. 1 wedding of Daniel Sherman, left, and Richard Skipper.  Photo: Christopher Johnson
One of the songs Most Likely to Be Played at a Wedding, at least for theater fans, is "Sunrise, Sunset," a ballad from the 1964 musical “Fiddler on the Roof,” a melancholy look back at how time flies:

Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?

I don’t remember growing older
When did they?

But New York in 2011 is not a Russian shtetel in 1905. What if your boy is marrying a boy, or your girl is marrying a girl? That question was answered on Saturday when gay-friendly lyrics to “Sunrise, Sunset,” approved by Sheldon Harnick, the “Fiddler on the Roof” lyricist, were sung officially for the first time at the nuptials of Richard Skipper and Daniel Sherman, in Tappan, N.Y.

Mr. Harnick wrote two gay-friendly versions of the song, one for gay men and one for lesbians:
For male couples:

Is that the little boy I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?
I don’t remember growing older.
When did they?

When did they get to be so handsome?
When did they grow to be so tall?
Wasn’t it yesterday when they were small?

For female couples:
Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little girl at play?
I don’t remember growing older.
When did they?

When did she get to be a beauty?
[Alternative: When did she get to be so handsome?]
When did she grow to be this tall?
Wasn’t it yesterday when they were small?

In an interview on Monday Mr. Harnick said it took him “about a day or two” to figure out the right way to adjust the lyrics. Since the wedding he’s received positive feedback from wedding guests and total strangers.  “I’ve already had some very touching emails from gay guys,” he said. “I was very surprised at how emotional they were. I got an email from a friend saying, ‘Thank you. Now I know what I want sung at my wedding to my partner.’ ”

The change was made at the request of Joshua Ellis, an interfaith minister who officiated at the wedding. A few weeks ago Mr. Ellis, who was a theatrical press agent for 30 years before entering the ministry, approached Mr. Harnick about writing lyrics specifically for gay couples. Mr. Ellis had already officiated at a number of same-sex weddings.  “Why would a same-sex couple want to use the original lyrics?” Mr. Ellis said. “Even if they love the song, we can’t use it at same-sex weddings.”

Mr. Ellis said Mr. Harnick conferred with Richard Ticktin, who represents the late Jerry Bock, the “Fiddler on the Roof” composer.   Mr. Ellis said Mr. Ticktin told him that Mr. Bock “would have been delighted” to make the changes.

But why not change the lyrics under the radar? Who would find out? As a man of the cloth, Mr. Ellis said it was out of the question to do so without getting permission from the show’s creators.
“I wanted them them to be sanctioned,” said Mr. Ellis, who was a press agent for the original productions of “Into the Woods,” “Nicholas Nickleby” and many other shows. “It’s the professional thing to do, the ethical thing to do and the classy thing to do.”  He continued: “If the marriage is now equal, the copyrights should be equal too.”


Quite obviously, they don't make Republicans like this any more:

I remember as a very small child during the cold war that all the men (it was all men in those days) in the Eisenhower Administration wore gray or black suits mostly with crashingly dull ties, all wearing either a fedora or homburg hat, all looking, sounding and acting as if half mummified.  Dwight Eisenhower himself didn't buck the prevailing fashion, but he did speak out with a strongly individual voice against what he saw as the menace of a looming, all consuming "military/industrial complex."  And although he had been the Supreme Commander in World War II, he was no war monger as president.  Would that he were around to slap some sense into today's members of his Republican Party.


On a lighter note, there have been calendars with hunky fire fighters and police, athletes, suburban ladies in various states of undress hiding their private bits behind the cakes they just baked, and even one that purported to be unfrocked Catholic priests; now there's Men of the Stacks . . . . .

. . . . or, who knew your local male librarian could be so hot?  Thumbnails of the other eleven guys turned out not to be as undressed as this engaging fellow, unfortunately.

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